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“You don’t buy cookbooks to read them,” once my friend said. At first I didn’t really know what she meant, because I never owned one. I was one of those person who think cookbooks are a waste of money because they just look pretty and you probably will never cook a dish out from the recipes in the cookbooks. On the other hand, I do collect photographers books; I just like to look at the photos and admire them. I guess is the same theory for cookbooks, you just have to drool over the pretty pictures of delicious food, isn’t that enough?

Slowly, a small section in the kitchen cupboard is now my cookbooks corner. My collection is still very shabby and don’t own any cookbooks by famous chefs or anything like that, but mostly just cheap useful cookbooks out of the bargain bin. (Yes, I am that cheap) But my two new acquired cookbooks I bought from overseas are Momofuku by David Chang, and COCO: 10 World-leading Masters choose 100 Contemporary Chefs and they are brilliant. Shameless to say, I am addicted!

I was lucky to be invited to the SBS Food Safari Book launch at Spice I am in Darlinghurst and get to find out more about the process behind the book and all the insights how the book was born. Helen from Grab Your Fork and Karen from Citrus and Candy were also at the book launch.

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This is a food blog, so let’s talk about the food at the launch… as you do. There are lots of crowd pleasing canapes floating around and the first one I tried is tapioca balls stuffed with pork, peanuts and water chestnuts. A good combination of texture, balanced well with the chewy starchy tapioca skin and the peanut and water chestnut fillings. It is a little bit sweet and salty at the same time.

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Most of the guests at the book launch are either part of the cookbook, or the book publishers. The top chefs including Tetsuya Wakuda, Peter Kuravita from Flying Fish, Kimitaka Azuma, Chui Lee Lok from Claude’s were there at the launch. Guy Grossi flew in from Melbourne to be the emcee of the night. But the star who stole the show tonight of course is no one but Food Safari TV host, Maeve O’meara herself. And guess what, there will be a new Food Safari show on SBS soon called Food Safari Italy and Guy Grossi will teamed up with Maeve to be on a Italian food trail. Keep an eye out.

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The deep fried prawn spring rolls are a delightful crunch. The succulent prawns are having an Egyptian treatment, mummified in a spring roll sheet then deep fried to golden brown. It works rather well as the whole prawn cooked through evenly. A dash of sweet chilli sauce and bite size pineapples on the side to enhance the flavour further. I heart mummified prawn spring rolls!

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The only canape that is not sweet and packs quite a hot punch is these spicy chicken and prawns balls. It ticks all the hot and spiciness boxes of a Thai dish should have but I found the deep fried skin is a little tough and hard to chew. It is flavorsome nevertheless and goes well with a glass of refreshing white.

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We got a chance to sneak into the kitchen to snap some photos of the canapes at the end of the launch and chatted with one of the chefs about how they prepared this rice noodles rolled with vegetables. The freshly steamed rice noodle is dyed using the blue pea flower (AKA butterfly pea flower) which is also commonly used in Malaysia to make nyonya kuih. Definitely a better option than using food coloring I guess.

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Lastly and is also my favorite, is the deep fried prawns in dessicated coconut. The golden brown prawns is nicely coated with fragrant dessicated coconut, a sweet caramelised condensed milk or brown sugar is also unmistakenly lingering on the tongue.

I had a quick flip through of the SBS cook book and it looks like a perfect gift and ready to be christened with sauces this festive season. The Food Safari cookbook retails for $55 and is available from Dymocks and the SBS shop. (Last time I saw them on the bookshelves at Dymocks are only $49.90)

A Table For Two attended this event courtesy of SBS, thanks for Aisha Hillary for organising it.
Spice I Am Restaurant
296-300 Victoria St, Darlinghurst
Tel: +61 (02) 9332 2445

Lunch: Thursday-Sunday 11.30am-3.00pm
Dinner: 7 days 6.00pm-10.30pm